Gender and governance in the Pacific media : media representation of women in politics in New Caledonia : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in International Development at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
The Pacific region ranks lowest in the world in terms of the proportion of female
representatives in national legislative bodies. The media, amongst other factors, plays a
role in women’s political representation. This thesis focuses on the relationship between
the media and women’s political representation in the Pacific.
Research identifies the media as a key factor in the formulation of public opinion. Genderrelated
aspects of media political coverage can influence gender equality in the political
sphere. My research contributes to the discussion on gender and politics by exploring how
female politicians in New Caledonia perceive media portrayals of women in politics, and
how these perceptions influence their approach to politics.
My study applies a feminist theoretical framework and uses qualitative research methods.
Through semi-structured interviews I undertook a thematic analysis of the perceptions of
female members of the New Caledonian Government and Congress regarding their
portrayal by the media and the influence this has on them.
The findings of my research indicate that in New Caledonia women in politics lack visibility
in the media. Female politicians who took part in the research observed that this poor
media visibility was exacerbated by political structures which do not encourage women’s
access to decision-making roles. In general, the media accepts the status quo regarding
gender equality in the political sphere, which results in the reinforcing of masculine
dominance of the political sector through the media. The interviews further indicated that,
while most female politicians recognise the potential of the media for gender equality in
politics, their position on the significance of the media is not homogenous. Loyalist
politicians maintained that the media is a critical element in politics, whereas proindependence
politicians downplayed its importance. Highly-ranked politicians also noted a
greater degree of gender stereotyping than junior politicians.
My research concludes that political affiliation and experience are two key elements that
affect the media’s influence on female politicians in New Caledonia. However, generally,
the media appears to have limited influence on female politicians.